No more self-erasing

I have been having body aches for the longest time, and judging from how long I often sit working in front of the computer, I guess it has to do with some muscle tension in my shoulder and arms area. I haven’t gone for a massage for the longest time as well so I called my cousin, who seems so resourceful when it comes to this area, to look for a masseuse to come to my house.

So she arrived today and got to work. While working (i.e. her kneading my body like a dough and sometimes twisting my body around like a pretzel, it HURTS but in a good way) we chatted about a lot of things. M the masseuse, turns out, is also a certified therapist. One thing she learned while taking certifications as a therapist was how to appreciate our own body — of which over the years have performed numerous tasks for us, either menial or to some considerable extent — through speaking to ‘it’. For example, if your eyes are hurting because you have been working on the computer for too long, take a short break, close your eyes and thank them for letting you do your job for as long as you have lived. She mentioned in one of the classes she was required to attend, the instructor made all the students hug and thank their own selves because more so than often, it’s our own body that we often neglect more so than others’. The whole room cried, she said, as everyone came to this revelation. Needless to say, she has now become my favourite masseuse.

It just so happened that before she arrived, I was reading this essay from The Paris Review called The Crane Wife. The writer, so sick of having the idea that she often had to ask for affection or any signs of it from her (cheating) fiancé — “this was like us going on a hiking trip and him telling me he had water in his backpack but not ever giving it to me and then wondering why I was still thirsty”, called the engagement off and went on a fieldwork to study whooping cranes for a novel.

I need you to know: I hated that I needed more than this from him. There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient. I did not want to feel like the kind of nagging woman who might exist in a sit-com.

These were small things, and I told myself it was stupid to feel disappointed by them. I had arrived in my thirties believing that to need things from others made you weak. I think this is true for lots of people but I think it is especially true for women. When men desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” or even “emasculated,” and given permission for all sorts of behaviour. But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.

The title of the essay comes from Japanese folklore about a crane who tricks a man into thinking she’s a woman so he would marry him.

She loves him, but knows that he will not love her if she is a crane so she spends every night plucking out all of her feathers with her beak. She hopes that he will not see what she really is: a bird who must be cared for, a bird capable of flight, a creature, with creature needs. Every morning, the crane-wife is exhausted, but she is a woman again. To keep becoming a woman is so much self-erasing work. She never sleeps. She plucks out all her feathers, one by one.

“To keep becoming a woman is so much self-erasing work.” I think about this so very often when we undermine how we feel in fear of being seen as needy or demanding, especially when we do so for the comfort of others. This is something I definitely need to learn to stop doing.

I also came upon this article on why creative geniuses were mostly men. Discarding the idea that they are born to be more superior than women, this is what we should understand:

… what struck me most about these creative geniuses – mostly men – was not their schedules and daily routines, but those of the women in their lives. Their wives protected them from interruptions; their housekeepers and maids brought them breakfast and coffee at odd hours; their nannies kept their children out of their hair. Martha Freud not only laid out Sigmund’s clothes every morning, she even put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Marcel Proust’s housekeeper, Celeste, not only brought him his daily coffee, croissants, newspapers and mail on a silver tray, but was always on hand whenever he wanted to chat, sometimes for hours. Some women are mentioned only for what they put up with, like Karl Marx’s wife – unnamed in the book – who lived in squalor with the surviving three of their six children while he spent his days writing at the British Museum.

Unlike the male artists, who moved through life as if unfettered time to themselves were a birthright, the days and life trajectories of the handful of female artists featured in the book were often limited by the expectations and duties of home and care. George Sand always worked late at night, a practice that started when she was a teenager and needed to take care of her grandmother. Starting out, Francine Prose’s writing day was defined by the departure and return of her children on the school bus. Alice Munro wrote in the “slivers” of time she could find between housekeeping and childrearing. And Maya Angelou got away from the pull of home by leaving it altogether, checking herself into an unadorned hotel room to think, read and write.

Also related: Women did everything right. Then work got ‘greedy’.

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